Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The festive season comes early for the traffic wardens

WHAT do traffic wardens want for Christmas?
We found out tonight down at the leisure centre, where you could hardly get a space in the car park because the fair had blocked off one end and the rest was full of stick-chuckers.
When we were young, the arrival of the fair was a huge event. It only came to Paignton once a year, for regatta, then it went to Torquay, then Brixham, then Dartmouth and then it was gone, wherever fairs go in winter.
I was never one for the scary rides, but I did love a good Noah's Ark, and Anderton and Rowland always had a good Noah's Ark, where you could perch on a wooden BSA Bantam and defy centrifugal force for a few minutes while the loudspeakers played 'Suffragette City' and the bloke in the middle hit the siren and yelled 'Do you WANNA go faster?'. And even if you didn't, you always yelled right back that you did.
And it always smelled of onions and candy floss and diesel, and the perfume of the prettiest girl in your class as she walked by.
But now the fair comes all the time, and it looks lame, and it doesn't have a Noah's Ark, and they don't play 'Suffragette City' any more.
And tonight it was parked where I wanted to park.
The stick-chuckers are in town for the championships of the National Baton Twirlers Association.
You can tell they are here by the knots of anxious parents smoking outside the leisure centre doors and the girls in their leotards racing up and down the stairs. They all have their hair scraped back and gallons of stage make-up on, like synchronised swimmers left stranded on land by an ebbing tide.
Outside after we had finished our run, the twirlers were heading home for the day, and many of their anxious parents were returning to their cars to find tickets on the windscreens.
Every now and then in a dark corner of the car park you could see the flash of a pocket camera as a warden nabbed another one.
They must have thought it was Christmas Day already.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Frank Turner

SAW this bloke and his band at the Lemon Grove in Exeter last night.
Utterly, utterly fantastic.
Tell all your friends, and see him live if you get the chance.

The gig came at the end of a great weekend in Bristol seeing older and younger daughters. Mooching around, shopping, eating, drinking, people-watching. I am so proud of them both.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Battling Tops

For no apparent reason I got all nostalgic for Battling Tops tonight.
It was just after watching Nick Griffin on Question Time but there's no deep significance in that.
The BBC took a huge gamble letting him on, but on the whole it probably paid off. He was completely unable to answer a straight question and made an utter pillock of himself. In that respect, the job's a good 'un.
Would anyone watching have been more likely to vote for him after seeing him squirm, fidget and lie his way through the programme? No.
Would it have made people less likely to vote for him. For all our sakes let's hope it's yes.
Anyway, I then got all nostalgic for Battling Tops, a game in which two, three or four little plastic spinning tops were unleashed into an arena and the last one standing was the winner. The picture on the box lid is actually a pretty fair representation of the game. Those American kids are really getting into it, eh? And the dad looks like Paul Whitehouse being Arthur Atkinson.
It was a great game, and I'll bet Popee and Tom Down Under had it. Probably the Caerphilly Kid, too.
You might think that being an only child was an obstacle to rewarding games of Battling Tops, but I developed a technique of firing them off in quick succession, so I was happy. They were simpler times.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


THE street is oh, so quiet tonight. We have just been outside with the dogs (plural because we are walking a neighbour's while she goes to Cardiff to see Cliff Richard in concert)and ours are the only lights on as far as the eye can see.
There is a glimmer around the curtains at number four, which means Gerry may be watching the snooker or something, but everywhere else the good people of the street are in their beds, dreaming dreams of things they cannot have, like the people of Llareggub.
Even Bazza's lights are off. He will be dreaming fitfully of cruise ships in beautiful harbours and prolific goalscorers in Argyle green.
Everywhere people are going to bed, and I'm not tired.
I was just warming to a conversation about British cinema history when my blogger friend from Dorset signed off and turned in for the night.
Running went well again, if the Waterside hill can ever be described as 'going well'. With Alan absent, the Caerphilly Kid was left in charge, and a fine job he made of it. Ten sprints up the old road, ten recovery jogs down the dual carriageway. I put everything into the ninth and powered past one-two-three people, puffing and blowing like a decrepit steam engine. Then I ran like Mister Soft in the Softmints advert on the tenth and one-two-three people went past me again.
After running I took up an invitation to see Fire For Effect in rehearsal at the college. Matt and Alex, latterly of Space Beacon Earth, have put together a new band and they sound good. They played 'Word Up', as performed by Gun and not as performed by Cameo, plus a couple of Foo fighters covers. Good, very good.
Shower, late supper. No wonder I'm not tired.
Anyone out there want to talk about The Third Man?

Monday, 19 October 2009


AS you may have gathered from the previous blog, Nanna and DIY Dave have acquired a new puppy.
It is a border terrier/Yorkshire cross and they have named it Baxter, like Ron Burgundy's dog in 'Anchorman'. I tried in vain to get a picture of him on my mobile. You'll have to make do with the movie version.
He and Reg got acquainted over the weekend, as they are likely to spend a fair bit of time walking together.
He is a feisty little so-and-so for 12 weeks. Reg did his best to ignore him, but he finally snapped. They then ran around the house side by side like terriers do for a while, backing into one another and baring their teeth without actually doing any biting.
Then Baxter nipped underneath Reg when he wasn't looking and nipped his nuts - unduly sharply, I thought.
Reg was mortified.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Kiss my puppy

Much excitement tonight as a new runner joined the Lovely Lady Group - not another lovely lady but a bloke who used to be in the army and wants to have a run with us for fitness.
The poor bloke joined on the night Alan decided to send us on the worst of the winter routes, necessary now the dark nights have set in.
But he hung on along the sea front, and didn't bat an eyelid when we turned left and kept climbing pretty much until we had crossed the ring road and passed the Old Smokey.

Here it is. It isn't long, but it's a pig. Click where it says 'show elevation' if you don't believe me.
Two members, whose names should remain shrouded in mystery for the time being, discussed their two-pronged Dream Ticket campaign for the running club chairmanship and vice-chairmanship. They said they would be out canvassing and would be going door to door kissing babies.
Nanna said: "You can come round and kiss my puppy". It probably shouldn't have seemed quite as funny as it did.
Sometimes it's like running with the cast of a Carry On film...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Giddy with excitement

BACK in the old routine after the great reunion weekend during which I acquired a whole new identity and danced with a Cornishman, I returned to speed training tonight.
Speed is relative, remember. What is eyeballs-out, lycra-singeing fast to me might just be a jog to you.
In fact it has been three weeks since I tested my speed skills as it was the Prague trip the week before. Anyway, those are my excuses and I am sticking to them.
Alan took us across to the Goodrington cliff walk for some lamp-post repetitions, up and down the 160-metre length of the prom, but we started with the lung-busting loop up to the top of the cliff walk and down the other side, just as a kind of a loosener. Cheers then, Alan.
Everton Keith stormed off at the front of the fast group up the steep hill, with a chasing trio of me, Alan and the willowy Michelle pulling away from the rest. Then Everton Keith took the speed merchants completely the wrong way when they got to the top, leaving the chasing trio in front as we pelted back down the slope.
I was giddy with excitement. So rarely do I feature near the front of any kind of competitive run that in my mind I was there on the podium collecting at least a bronze. I was busy preparing my trackside interview patter for the man from the BBC who is the best friend of all the athletes when Everton Keith shattered my dreams by bursting out from the steps and hammering through to deprive me of my third place. I held off the rest of the recovering fast boys to trail in fourth, but my moment of glory was gone.
Later, in the warm-down relays the three-man team which featured Everton Keith, Paul C and me was actually leading for the first few legs in the gathering darkness down on the prom, but Michelle did me again and hurtled through to give her team victory.
It's not competitive, this Tuesday night speed work, you understand. Not competitive at all...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Say When

Just a couple of days to go now until the long-awaited work reunion, meeting up with people not seen for 30 years in some cases, and not since the last reunion seven years ago in others.
...and not since the last Torquay United home game in the case of Ross, the Cornish man...
I made a mix of music from 1978ish-1982ish and stuck it on a disc for some old friends to listen to as they drive down. They have, of course, cheated and listened to it already. They must be buggers at Christmas.
I put 'Say When' by Lene Lovich on it, and forgot how much I liked it.
Lene Lovich played Routes club in Exeter and a bunch of us went to see her. She had a great band, and her album 'Stateless' is a classic. Her version of 'I Think We're Alone Now' is the best of all, I reckon, and there have been plenty.
And if you're thinking the word 'Tiffany', please leave now.
So, it's 1978 or 1979 in the aromatic darkness of Routes, down among the exotic smokers and the skinheads in what the young people these days refer to as the 'moshpit'.
The front few rows of the crowd are composed almost entirely of sweaty blokes with a few beers on board. Then Lene sings 'Say When', which has some dance moves with it, and she's so good and we're so mesmerised that a hundred sweaty, beery blokes - skinheads and all - do the silly dance moves without question.
After the gig an old, grizzled, drunken colleague - a Yorkshireman whose prodigious alcohol intake back then means he must surely be long gone by now - goes to the dressing room to interview Lene. He makes a beery, leery pass at her and gets thumped by her guitarist for his troubles. He emerges dishevelled, laughing and bleeding.....and singing 'Say When'.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


It's not a spelling mistake, but it does kind of sum up how often I've been blogging lately.
But just when my enthusiasm is waning, an award comes my way.
According to the excellent World From My Window blog, I have received something called a Zombie Chicken, which is nice.
I have no idea where I go to receive this award or what it entails, but it has perked me right up and no mistake guv'nor.
Tomorrow, if I can get online before midnight, I will write something. Really I will....